Syria in the Global Refugee Context

In 2014 there were just under 60million (59.5m) displaced people in the world, including 19.5m refugees and 18m asylum seekers (UNHCR Global Trends Report 2014)

Most refugees – 86% – are hosted in developing countries; Turkey (1.59m), Pakistan (1.51m), Lebanon (1.15m) (UNHCR Global Trends Report 2014)

In 2014, according to the UN, there were 117,161 refugees in the UK.

The UN reports that 4 million Syrians have left their country during the current conflict. More than a quarter of them are living in Lebanon, representing nearly 1.2m extra people in a country of 4.5m. A further 1.5m Syrians were hosted in Turkey at the end of 2014. (UNHCR Global Trends Report 2014)

In 2014 there were 24,914 asylum applications to the UK (Migration Observatory)

In 2014, 59% of asylum applications were initially refused. A majority of refused applicants lodge appeals. In 2014, 28% of appeals were allowed. (Migration Observatory)

Comment: it is hard to get asylum in the UK – with reductions in legal aid, the practical difficulties for asylum seekers to access the evidence to prove their case and the ‘culture of disbelief’ in the Home Office. Hence the high proportion of successful appeals, meaning that many ‘refused asylum seekers’ go on to get refugee status.
Many who are turned down cannot return home because we don’t have diplomatic relations (Eritrea, Iran, etc) or the situation in the home country remains dangerous because of war etc.
While they are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim asylum seekers in the UK are given accommodation, usually in a house they have to share with people from other countries, and provided with just £36.95 weekly allowance. This is supposed to take between 6-12months after they have had their initial interview, but it often takes longer.

Asylum applicants and their dependents comprised an estimated 8% of net migration in 2013, down from 49% in 2002 but up from 4% in 2010.

In 2014, the UK received 5% of asylum claims made in EU countries (plus Norway and Switzerland), making it the sixth highest recipient of asylum claims.

Europe, the Mediterranean & Syrian refugees

According to figures compiled by the UN and reported in the Guardian, by the end of July 2015, 62% of those who had reached Europe by boat this year were from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan. (The Guardian)

The 200,00 refugees who arrived in Europe in the first few months of this year represent just 0.027% of the European population of 740million – that’s fewer than 3 in every 1,000 European residents.

Only 1-2.5% of those arriving via the Mediterranean find their way to Calais.

Syrian refugees & resettlement

The UK takes 750 refugees each year under the United Nations resettlement programme known in Britain as ‘Gateway’. Sheffield was the first city to accept refugees under this programme in 2004. Since then the Refugee Council has supported refugees from Liberia, Burma, Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Bhutan.

Resettled refugees are selected from refugee camps and supported for 12 months with orientation, housing and employment advice, ESOL, education and related support.

After initially refusing to participate in the UN’s relocation scheme for Syrians, the UK Government relented in January 2014 and agreed to offer resettlement to the most vulnerable Syrian refugees – victims of sexual violence, the elderly, victims of torture, and the disabled receive highest priority. The Government said it expected several hundred refugees to arrive over the next three years, but that there would be no quota.

In July 2015 the Government agreed to take an extra 200 such people in addition to the 187 so far resettled.

The Prime Minister’s recent announcement – that Britain will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the life of this Parliament (5 years) – relates to an extension of this scheme, whereby Syrians would be taken from camps near the Syrian border. They would arrive here as refugees (not asylum seekers) and would be able to apply for jobs.